Injunction would bar preacher from church’s assets

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 3, 2011

EDITOR’S NOTE:  The suit filed by Blackwelder Park Baptist Church against former senior pastor Keith Kannenberg went into mediation and was voluntarily dismissed on June 12, 2012.

By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — In the latest filing in an ongoing legal dispute, Blackwelder Park Baptist Church trustees accuse the pastor and a local doctor of planning to transfer the church’s assets to a newly formed church.
The Rev. Keith Kannenberg and Dr. Eric Troyer deny the accusation.
An attorney for the trustees of Blackwelder Park has filed an injunction that seeks to bar Kannenberg from transferring any church assets and force him to stop representing himself as the church’s senior pastor.
Meanwhile, according to the injunction, church trustees have directed the church’s accountant and treasurer to stop paying Kannenberg.
Rick Locklear, an attorney for the trustees, said it is not clear if the church is still paying Kannenberg pending court action on the injunction.
The trustees of the Kannapolis church filed a civil lawsuit Sept. 15 in Rowan County against Kannenberg, saying he was fired but refused to step down.
The lawsuit asked the court to force Kannenberg to resign.
Melvin McGee, who represents the trustees, and Robert Bare, who represents the church’s Policy and Procedures Ministry Team, are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
The suit said Kannenberg misrepresented himself before a search committee hired him in 2008. It also said he cannot get along with anyone and has fired staff who disagree with him. He’s fired ministerial staff without consulting the Personnel Ministry Team, the suit said.
The suit said Kannenberg has ignored church leaders’ calls for his resignation and has allowed his supporters to disrupt business meetings called to discuss his termination.
The injunction comes on the heels of a flurry of filings made with the N.C. Secretary of State’s Office by competing factions within the church and a member seeking to start a new church.
On Sept. 20, Dr. Troyer, a family practitioner in Landis and member of Blackwelder Park, filed papers to create a nonprofit corporation identified as The Life Church of Kannapolis Inc.
The initial filing identified Troyer and Kannenberg as the two directors of the nonprofit.
On Sept. 21, Kannenberg and Stanley “Jamey” Welch Jr., who is chairman of the deacon board and son of former Blackwelder Park pastor Stan Welch, filed papers naming Kannenberg the church’s new registered agent. Holding that title would give him authority to accept legal documents, including services of process and summonses on behalf of the church.
The document also changed the registered office of the church from 2204 Summit Ave. to 2299 N. Main St., the location of the church. The church has a preschool on Summit Avenue.
Welch signed the document as chairman of the board of directors.
On Oct. 21, Mike Herman, another trustee, filed paperwork with the state disputing Kannenberg’s and Welch’s right to make those changes. In the “article of correction,” Herman wrote that Kannenberg had been fired by the church and that Welch misrepresented his authority.
Herman said only a church trustee can sign legal documents that concern the church.
Herman filed private warrants bringing criminal charges against Kannenberg and Welch for the misdemeanor charge of filing false documents.
On Oct. 21, Herman filed a correction naming himself as the registered agent for the church.
Also on Oct. 21, Troyer filed another document with the state saying the initial paperwork for The Life Church “was incorrect” and that Kannenberg was not a director of the nonprofit.
The injunction alleges Kannenberg “and/or others closely associated with him continue to ignore the bylaws of Blackwelder Park Baptist Church and have created an organizational structure to transfer assets of Blackwelder Park Baptist Church to the Life Church of Kannapolis, Inc.”
“It’s entirely untrue,” Troyer said.
Troyer, who is hosting an organizational meeting for the new church Saturday at his medical practice, declined to comment further.
The injunction asks the court to issue a temporary order granting them authority to “exercise all acts reasonably necessary to stabilize Blackwelder Park Baptist Church pending resolution of this action.”
Kannenberg has declined to comment on the lawsuit and said Wednesday of the accusations, “They’re not true.”
He made no other comments.
The injunction request makes reference to a church plan that includes retaining a visiting pastor for three weeks and changes to church accounting procedures.
Kannenberg has hired attorney Carl Conroy of Concord, according to court records. Conroy won an extension of time to file a response to the initial complaint, but the court has not ruled on his Oct. 17 motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
Conroy did not return a telephone call Wednesday.
A Nov. 28 court date has been scheduled.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.